Mr. Denby to Mr. Sherman.

No. 2731.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a letter from the Rev. W. H. Lingle, a member of the American Presbyterian Mission at Lien Chou in Kwangtung, China, wherein he represents that in the prefecture in which the mission is located, Christian converts are prevented from entering the Government examinations and competing for honors.

There can be no question that an attempt to place Chinese converts to Christianity under civil disabilities, because of their faith, is a violation of the treaty obligations of China.

I have, accordingly, sent to the Tsung-li Yamên a paper on this subject of which a copy is inclosed.

I have, etc.

Charles Denby.
[Page 83]
[Inclosure 1, in No. 2731.]

Mr. Lingle to Mr. Denby.

Dear Sir; I had the honor of addressing your excellency last year in regard to our trouble in the Southern part of the province of Hunan, which was most satisfactorily settled.

I now take the liberty of addressing you again, upon a subject which has troubled and hindered us in our work here for years; namely, Christians being prevented from entering the Government examinations. They have gone up year after year, but have never been allowed to enter the examinations and compete for honors. I have gone in person and seen the magistrate of this prefecture in regard to the matter. I stated to him that these Christians were being deprived of their rights as citizens of China, and were branded as outcasts; that we were hindered in our work by being accused of teaching a religion which was so bad that whoever became a convert to it lost his rights as a citizen. I have seen the magistrate repeatedly about this. He always acknowledges to me the rights of the Christians to enter the examinations, but said he could do nothing to compel the Ling Pao, or examiners, to admit them.

We have petitioned the viceroy of Kwangtung, through our American consul in Canton, year after year, but have secured nothing, excepting replies that Christians could compete in the examinations.

We know they have the right, but in this prefecture they have never been permitted to enjoy that right.

The magistrate acknowledges their rights, and so has the viceroy, in every reply to our petitions, and still all Christians are debarred from entering the examination halls. We as American citizens are accused of teaching a religion which is so vile that the Chinese Government will not permit anyone who becomes a Christian to compete for honors. We are thus greatly hindered in our work.

Every scholar in China aspires to honors and a government position. The scholars are kept from uniting with the church and entering our schools on account of this barrier.

I appeal to your excellency to help us in this matter. There is no need of my appealing to the magistrate and petitioning the viceroy any longer. Can we not have some stringent order from higher authority that Christians are not to be hindered from entering the examinations at the prefecture of Lien Chou and have the order executed?

I have, etc.,

W. H. Lingle.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 2731.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li Yamên.

Your Highnesses and Your Excellencies: I have the honor to inform you that I have received a letter from an American missionary at Lien Chou, in Kwangtung, in which he states that Chinese converts to the Christian religion in that prefecture are not allowed to compete at the Government examinations. The matter has been frequently reported to the magistrate of the prefecture by the missionaries, [Page 84] but, while admitting that Christians have the right to enter the examinations, he states that he can do nothing to compel the examiners (Ling Pao) to admit them. The viceroy has year after year been appealed to, through the American consul at Canton, in behalf of the converts. His reply has uniformly been that Christians may compete, but this has had no effect in removing the prohibitions under which they suffer at Lien Chou.

The principle of religious toleration has been accepted by the Chinese Government in treaties with many, if not all, western powers. It is expressly declared in Article XXIX of the treaty made with the United States in 1858 that those who quietly profess Christian doctrines shall in no case be molested. In Article XII of the treaty with France of the same year the Chinese Government formally abrogates all that has heretofore been officially proclaimed or published against the Christian religion, and this abrogation was reaffirmed less than two years ago in an arrangement entered into by your highnesses and your excellencies with the French minister at Peking. The principle of religious toleration has been repeatedly proclaimed by the Emperor and there is no question that an attempt to place Chinese converts to Christianity under civil disabilities, because of their faith, is a violation of the laws of China as well as of the treaties with foreign powers. So freely is this principle accepted by the Government and high officials of China that the defiance of it by obscure local officials in Kwangtung is presumption meriting the most severe punishment.

I request you to issue stringent orders to the authorities at Lien Chou that no Christian qualified to present himself at any examination shall be hindered or discriminated against because of his religious belief.